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Sri Lanka, Tsunami, 2004, war, fishing, boat, sunset, photo
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Mahawaskaduwa, Kalutara, Sri Lanka

An outrigger canoe rests peacefully on a golden beach as the sun goes down over the Indian Ocean. Fishing is a way of life for many people in Sri Lanka. This way of life was all but obliterated in 2004 when the single worst tsunami in history came crashing ashore. Sri Lanka was the 2nd hardest hit nation. All told, tens of thousands of lives were lost and millions more displaced. Because of their proximity to the ocean, those in the fishing industry took the brunt of the damage. Lives, homes and the the island's entire fishing infrastructure were taken in an instant. Thousands of boats were destroyed. Reefs were damaged so badly fish didn't return for years. Evidence of the tsunami is still everywhere you look. I don't think I spoke with a single person who's life hadn't been affected by it in a major way. Sri Lanka has seen more than its fair share of hardships in recent years. A violent civil war that lasted a quarter of a century ended here in just 2009, 5 Years after the Tsunami hit. Still, people are doing what they need to do to survive here. The fortitude I saw in the faces and words of the people was quite extaordinary. Real grit. When walking the streets we were almost always greeted with a friendly hello or at the very least a big smile. One man even invited us into his home which had been destroyed in 2004. A decade later and hardly anything had been repaired. He shared stories of the tsunami with us over tea that his wife made. Certainly nothing they owed to us as tourists. I made this image on a particularly beautiful evening almost 9 years to the day since the Tsunami on Boxing Day of 2004. Outriggers like this now line the beaches again thanks to a boat donation program set up by a number of countries. This particular canoe was donated from Belgium, and read so in large white letters on the side. A symbol of gratitude from these people who are slowly getting back to life as usual. A lot of work needs to be done and much help is still needed here, but for me this boat, pulled up onto the beach for the night served as a symbol of the determination and toughness of the resilient people of Sri Lanka.

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